7 May 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck - film review

From At The Movies, 7:40 pm on 7 May 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck - documentary directed by Brett Morgan.

Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck director Brett Morgan is clearly a Cobain obsessive, and goodness knows the singer and main songwriter of grunge band Nirvana is a fruitful source for a documentary.

Cobain was born in Washington State, and spent most of his life getting into trouble – at home, at school, everywhere. After Kurt’s parents broke up, he seemed to go off the rails, living in turn with his good-time mother and his mostly absent father – both of whom try to explain why they had so much difficulty with the kid. 

Cobain ignored school, and turned to music – especially 70s punk, which he discovered about 5 years after it had died everywhere else.

Like another semi-biography about Cobain – Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, Montage of Heck is fascinated by the tortured character of the rock star. But they were both less interested in - or simply less capable of - exploring the actual music, where it came from, and what Cobain’s band did with it.

Conspicuous by his absence is Nirvana’s third main member, drummer Dave Grohl.  But then there’s nothing from the other ten or so people who passed through Nirvana over the years - apart from Krist Novoselic.

But you suspect director Brett Morgan and producer Courtenay Love aren’t interested in anything that deviates from the iconography of the Lone Genius Rockstar.  

There’s a whole lot of Cobain’s wife, Courtenay Love in Montage of Heck, revelling in her Tough Bad Girl status. Certainly her tolerance for drugs – particularly heroin – was unhelpful to the fragile, and borderline narcissist, Cobain.

The downside of a rock documentary – you could say it’s the same with any talented artist, which Cobain undoubtedly was – is that personally these people are often deeply unappealing. You undeniably learn a lot – possibly a bit too much – about Cobain’s messy and ultimately tragic life. 

But sometimes it’s better to let the music do the talking, “revered icon” or not.

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